'I smile every time I see her.' New program pairs rescue dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD
A rescue dog has a new home and a Vietnam veteran has a new friend thanks to a new program.
Chris Quirin, of Manhasset, says it was love at first sight when he met Layla.
"She jumped on the couch, put her head on my chest - and I was like, 'I'm in love,'" Quirin says. "It's the perfect connection."
The two were able to meet because of Operation Canine Companion.
Quirin is the first recipient of a companion dog from the program.
The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation and Operation Warrior Shield joined forces to train rescue dogs to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"You see a lot of programs like this around the country, thankfully, but they're using dogs that are bred," says Patricia Deshong, of the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation. "What makes our program so unique is we're using shelter dogs. We're giving them a second chance at life, you know, so it's kind of like they are paying it forward in what they're doing for veterans."
The shelter selects rescue dogs that demonstrate a gentle disposition for the program and then give the dogs three months of obedience training.
It costs $5,000 to train a rescue dog to be a companion animal. The money comes from donations.
"The dog really needs to look at their owner for cues, for you know, any kind of panic attacks they might have," says Veronica Grzybowska, a head dog trainer.
The shelter says the rewards for the dog and veteran are priceless.
"I smile every time I see her," Quirin says.
Quirin says Layla helps him heal from PTSD that he has suffered from ever since he was nearly killed by a landmine explosion while serving in Vietnam.